50 Best Albums of 2017

2017 was easily the most definitive year of my entire life. This year, I became a father. I got married. Everything changed, including the way I appreciated music.

It wasn’t my tastes; I didn’t suddenly drop my love for techno and weird jazz to become a dad rock connoisseur, despite in fact making a dad rock mixtape. No, it was a subtle shift in weight, a slight refocusing on what aspects most affect what I love about music. I’m still largely into the same genres and artists as before, but I now feel drawn to facets of sound and meaning that I shied away from before. I’m more interested in peeling back the meaning behind what I’m loving, searching for a thread to pull, an arc to follow. Slowly but surely, I recognized the colors emerging from the stories that built these pieces of art.

It’s not that I wasn’t interested in the behind-the-scenes or the history before becoming a dad; it’s simply that I now find myself automatically working recursively when I’m emotionally struck by something, running down the fibers of time that brought it to my attention, trying to work out a map for my own journey forward in this new life role. I’m living for more than myself finally, and although it feels vulnerable to have my heart living outside my body, it’s incredibly rewarding. I’ve felt more energized, more creative than I have in years. I made five new mixtapes between winters. I began running for the first time. I started writing fiction again. Oh and, along with my wife, I’ve been raising a child pretty successfully for half a year so far. Even more than ever before, I can’t wait to experience what happens next.

Speaking of my wife, that’s her in the header picture above. I thought the image of her, pregnant, hiking in the late winter sunset, encapsulated the way I felt about 2017. All that nervous possibility and raw beauty surrounding the long shadow down the path ahead, feeling real warmth after too many frozen months.

This year, like every year, was bursting full of new, exciting, brilliant music. It only takes some effort and desire to find it all. In another first, I barely read any music journalism, kept up with no major release schedules, and missed out on most of the hype 2017 had to offer. I have only the faintest ideas about what other people hold up as the best music of the year. To me, these 50 albums mattered more than anything else I heard all year, give or take a few. For a more comprehensive picture of the year, be sure to check out 50 more must-hear albums of 2017.

Let’s begin the countdown. These are the 50 best albums of 2017.

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Gaussian Curve – The Distance

Serendipity: I found Gaussian Curve thanks to Dam-Funk’s DJ-Kicks set, a sprawling mixture of funk, psychedelia, and groovy, ambient bliss. This project fit that last descriptor perfectly, laying out an enticing breadcrumb trail to the far edges of hazy consciousness; I could never resist. It’s since become one of my favorite ambient acts ever.

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Gaussian Curve – Clouds

Gaussian Curve - Clouds

Clouds is, simply put, one of the most addictive albums I’ve heard all year, despite its relaxed attitude and understated charm. This thing slid into my brain and refused to leave.

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What I’m Into This Week (6/5 – 6/11)

Witcher 3 Ciri and Geralt

This week has been as busy as ever so I didn’t have a ton of time for new music, but I made up for that with deep enthusiasm for what I did discover.

Thanks to Dam-Funk’s excellent new entry in the DJ-Kicks series, I’ve been looping a certain new-to-me album half a dozen times over the past day alone. I’ve also spent time in one of the most sublime virtual worlds ever created, in The Witcher 3.

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